Do Not Be Deceived by Any False Doctrine

Samuel Smith


"Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings! It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them" (Hebrews 13:9). The verse which begins this article is an apostolic caution against FALSE DOCTRINE. It forms part of a warning which the great apostle Paul addressed to the Hebrew Christians. It is a caution just as much needed NOW at this end of the world as it was several years ago. Never, I think, was it so important for our pastors to cry aloud continually, "Do NOT be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings!"

My dear Brother or Sister in Christ, that old enemy of mankind, the devil, has no more subtle instrument for ruining souls, than that of spreading false doctrine. "He has been a murderer and a liar from the beginning!" "Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He walks around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour!" Outside the Church, he is ever persuading men to live sinful lives, and adhere to destructive superstitions. Cruel human sacrifices to idols, the worship of disgusting and abominable false gods, persecution, slavery, cannibalism, child murder, devastating religious wars — all these are a part of Satan's handiwork, and the fruit of his suggestions! The devil's main objective is to destroy!" Inside the Church, he is ever working very hard to sow heresies, to propagate errors, to promote departures from the Truth and faith in Christ. If he cannot prevent the waters flowing from the Fountain of Life, he tries hard to POISON them. If he cannot destroy the remedy of the Gospel, he struggles to adulterate and corrupt it. No wonder that he is considered to be a destroyer.

Thankfully enough, The Divine Comforter of the Church, the Holy Spirit - has always employed one great weapon to oppose Satan's plans. That weapon is the HOLY BIBLE. The Bible expounded and unfolded, the Bible explained and opened up, the Bible made clear to the head - and applied to the heart is one of the greatest weapons of the child of God. The Holy Bible is the chosen weapon by which the devil must be confronted and confounded. The Holy Bible was the sword which our Lord Jesus used in His temptations. To every assault of the Tempter, He replied, "It is written!" The Bible is the sword which our pastors must use in the present day, if they would successfully resist the devil. The Bible, faithfully and freely expounded — is the safeguard of Christ's true Church at this end of the world.

My dearest Brother or Sister, I desire you to remember this lesson for your benefit, and I invite your attention also to the text which stands at the beginning of this article. We live in an age when men claim to dislike dogmas and creeds, and are filled with a sad dislike for controversial theology. Anyone who dares to say of one doctrine that "it is true," and of another that "it is false," must expect to be called narrow-minded and to be considered an enemy, and to lose the praise of men. Nevertheless, the Scriptures were not written in vain. Let us examine the mighty lessons contained in Paul's words to the Hebrews. They are lessons for us — as well as for them.

First, the Apostle Paul gives us a BROAD WARNING. "Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings." The meaning of these words is not a hard thing to understand. "Be not tossed back and forth," the Apostle seems to say, "by every blast of false teaching, like ships without compass. FALSE DOCTRINES will arise as long as the world lasts, in many numbers, with varying minor details — in one point alone, always the same — strange, new, and foreign doctrines that ensnares one to depart from the Gospel of Christ. Many false doctrines do exist now at this end of the world. They will always be found within the visible Church. My beloved Reader, remember this, and do not be carried away." Such is Paul's warning. Even in Paul's last address to the Ephesian elders, he finds time to warn his friends against FALSE DOCTRINE: "Even from your own number, men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30).

My dearest Brother or Sister in the Lord, carefully note what the Second Epistle to the Corinthians says: "I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3). Again, note what the Epistle to the Ephesians says: "No longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming" (Ephesians 4:14). Also, note what the Epistle to the Colossians says: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ" (Colossians 2:8). Furthermore, note what the First Epistle to Timothy says: "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith" (1 Timothy 4:1). Additionally, note what the Second Epistle of Peter says: "There will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies" (2 Peter 2:1). Moreover, note what the First Epistle of John says: "Do not believe every spirit. Many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). Moreover, note what the Epistle of Jude says: "Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men have secretly slipped in among you" (Jude 1:3, 4). There also fell from the loving lips of our Saviour, a solemn word of caution: "Watch out for false prophets! They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves!" (Matthew 7:15).

My beloved Reader, these things were written for our learning at this end of the world. What shall we say about these texts? How they may strike others I cannot say. I only know how they strike me. To tell us, as some do, in the face of these texts, that the early Churches were a model of perfection and purity — is a deviation from the truth. Even in Apostolic days, we learn there were abundant errors both in doctrine and practice. To tell us, as others do, that pastors ought never to handle controversial subjects, and never to warn their people against erroneous views — is not a biblical viewpoint. If we did this, then we would have to ignore most of the Bible. Surely the dumb dog and the sleeping shepherd are the best allies of the wolf, the thief, and the robber! It is not for nothing that Paul says, "If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 4:6).

A plain warning against FALSE DOCTRINE is especially needed in this time of the end as by the pen and by the tongue, by the press and by the pulpit, the entire world is continuously flooded with erroneous opinions. We will ignore this fact to our own peril. The danger is real, great, and unmistakable! Never was it so needful to say, "Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings!"

Paul Fonsi